About the Author: Suzanne Hall serves as the Public Diplomacy Advisor for Canada and Mexico in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.
Secretary Clinton hosted Mexican Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa and Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon for a trilateral ministerial meeting at the State Department on Thursday, July 16, 2009. Secretary Clinton has met with Secretary Espinosa and Minister Cannon on various occasions over the last few months, but this was the first opportunity for the three to focus on issues relevant to North America.
The ministers discussed at length the upcoming North American Leaders’ Summit during a meeting and working lunch. In her public remarks, Foreign Secretary Espinosa announced Mexico will host the next Leaders’ Summit in Guadalajara, Mexico, from August 9 – 10, 2009. The leaders will focus on improving North American competitiveness and economic recovery, promoting clean energy and combating climate change, and protecting the safety of our citizens. President Obama plans to participate in the summit.
Beyond the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), many people are not focused on the many ways our three countries work together on North American, hemispheric, and global issues. The North American Leaders’ Summit was originally launched in 2005 to underscore how the United States, Canada, and Mexico could work collectively to pursue opportunities and face common challenges. Guadalajara will be the fifth annual Summit, and the first in which President Obama will participate.
Working North American issues is a different kind of foreign policy. North America has been my “beat” for just a few months, and it is amazing how so many topics go beyond the typical diplomatic realm. North American issues directly touch the everyday lives of our citizens. We are dealing with state and local issues like border management, how to retrain our work forces in a time of economic crisis and how we deal with H1N1 influenza. There are many who refer to North American policies as “intermestic” – concurrently international and domestic. Often times, the local politics surrounding these issues make the work an uphill climb. However, we are taking them on, working hand-in-hand with our Mexican and Canadian colleagues, finding solutions that make sense for all of our citizens.
In past summits, North American leaders agreed to advance coordination on a wide range of issues, including economic competitiveness, pandemic flu, consumer safety, border security, emergency management, and energy security. This coordination has led to concrete benefits for our citizens. For example, the North American Plan for Avian and Pandemic Influenza was created to improve our coordinated response in the event of an outbreak. The plan was vitally important to our strong and ongoing response to the outbreak of the novel H1N1 flu earlier this year, and will prepare us for a potential return of the flu in the fall. We also work on a trilateral basis to ensure food and consumer safety, reduce the costs of cross-border trade, and cooperate on the development of more efficient energy technology.
During the next North American Leaders’ Summit in Guadalajara, our leaders will relaunch our partnership to the benefit of the more than half a billion North American citizens.
President Obama summed up North American potential best during his visit to Mexico City on April 16, 2009: “What makes us good neighbors is a simple truth -- that our people share so much more than common challenges and common interests. We also share values and ideals.”